25 September 2023

Attention getting: How to put attention deficit to work for you

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Laura Stack* says many people never get over Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but properly managed it can be a workplace advantage.

After spending so many years working with productive people, and helping others become more productive, I’ve learned that some of us are different.

To some extent, all of us become distracted at times.

Distraction comes from new ideas suddenly appearing in the peripheries of our imaginations, growing with prominence as they’re examined and prove intriguing.

I’ve advised against allowing these new shiny things to overcome your focus, dragging you down the path of unproductivity.

Spear those errant thoughts with a pen, pinning them in place for later examination.

My father has a mantra for this: “If you think it, ink it.”

I have followed his advice throughout my business career.

Now, not all errant thoughts are useful, and some of us are constantly distracted by them, almost to the point of disability.

Since 1980, psychologists have recognised that many children suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

These individuals are so easily distracted they find it hard to function.

ADD seems to vanish as most children mature, but it really just goes underground.

Many sufferers live with ADD their whole lives, often adapting to it in positive ways.

Some only discover as adults they’ve had it their entire lives.

Here are a few hints you may have ADD, with suggestions for how to harness it to your benefit.

This is by no means a diagnostic tool; see a physician if you think you have ADD.

Even if you don’t, you can use the workarounds for productivity advantages.

Your distraction is chronic and pervasive:

Everyone is forgetful and distracted sometimes, but if you have ADD, the behaviour is prevalent.

You may miss a lot of meetings, forget things at home, and lose track of items constantly.

The cure is to put so many boundaries around your distractibility that you channel it to your advantage.

If necessary, schedule your day down to the quarter-hour, document everything, and keep your calendar app open — complete with alarms not just to remind you of meetings, but to remind you to prepare for them.

Take copious notes at every meeting.

Tight planning is the key and will help you with every aspect of your workday.

You work best with a partner who complements your talents:

Your talents may lie in initiating projects, getting the ball rolling, and passing it along.

Instead of leaving many promising projects incomplete because you’re always moving on to something new, why not partner with a ‘closer?’

Closers are great at picking up the threads of a project and finishing it. This hones teamwork and lets you both focus on what you’re best at, thus improving overall productivity.

You carefully time-box your activities:

You’ve made a to-do list and know exactly what your priorities are for the next day.

To complete your work, you find you must assign a specific amount of time to each task and make sure you do at least that much.

Not only does this keep you moving on a project (as long as you maintain your self-discipline), it has the benefit of making sure you don’t try to spread yourself too thin.

When there’s only eight-to-10 hours in the workday, you’re unlikely to be able to make significant progress on 15 or more tasks.

Ultimately, you’ll keep from burning out while still hitting your goals, assuming they’re reasonable.

You can hyper-focus:

The ‘hyperactivity’ part of ADHD can be a misnomer in adults; that’s why I’ve used ADD instead.

When people with ADD like doing something, they really like it — sometimes to the point of hyper-focus.

No one can focus on something as well as someone with ADD.

You find that there are times when nothing can budge you from finishing a task or solving a problem, and you tear through it in record time — often arriving at creative solutions.

In the workplace, this can be a great advantage.

While we often view ADD as a disability, when harnessed, it can actually boost your productivity.

The trick is recognising that, and then putting your natural tendencies into play.

Managing your ADD, working with it, and rewarding yourself for doing well can help you maintain your workplace edge.

*Laura Stack is a keynote speaker, author and authority on productivity and performance. She has weitten seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time. She can be contacted at theproductivitypro.com

This article first appeared on Laura’s blogsite.

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